Posts Tagged ‘ Anurag Kashyap ’


Akira Poster

Release date: September 2, 2016
Directed by: AR Murugadoss
Cast: Sonakshi Sinha, Anurag Kashyap, Konkona Sen Sharma, Ankita Bhargava, Nandu Madhav, Amit Sadh

AR Murugadoss has a reputation for rehashing South Indian blockbusters and infusing them with bone-shattering violence and a few metal rods scattered here and there, for the ease of more, right, violence! Akira, surprisingly, isn’t as loaded on the pow-wow where it could potentially render you indifferent to the proceedings on screen.

For its run-time of 138 minutes, the film crams in a lot of contrivances, themes, and not many didactic messages. Akira, the character’s exposition is laced with a strong little social commentary. The young girl in Jodhpur is enrolled in a martial arts class by her father and a very formative situation leads her to being locked up in the remand home. There’s tremendous scope of using this detail into something bigger for when she grows up, but then the makers choose to fly by all of it in a song sequence. Fortunately, the only song sequence of the film.

Post her return and acquittal, the adult Akira (Sonakshi Sinha) doesn’t face any major social stigma or ostracization. Her family thinks that they are transporting her to Mumbai for her greater good, and maybe, she will have more options in education. Akira is smarter than that. She knows better, yet she relents.

In Mumbai, ACP Rane (Anurag Kashyap) rolls a censored object in a police vehicle, while his subordinates look on, scared for their lives as he insists on driving the car and pulling off a stunt. Rane is the perfect antagonist for any and every protagonist. He is vicious, corrupt, cunning, and sadistically enjoyable to watch. A few hundred things and some terribly grating scenes later, Akira and Rane end up crossing paths and here begins an elaborate attempt to eliminate her.

The deck is heavily stacked against Akira, who, to her credit, never goes soft. Even when her horribly naive family believes a theory concocted by Rane’s men. If there’s ever an sequel to this, please make her abandon them. Rabiya (Konkona Sen Sharma) is a tepid implicit supporting character to Akira’s struggles. She labors her way through a pregnancy and acts all alone to investigate the film’s highlight case.

Did I mention there are a few more badly shot sequences inside a completely caricaturish mental asylum?

To the film’s credit, Akira’s character is never held as a damsel in distress, and never are her combat skills disregarded. In a slightly humorous moment, she even indulges herself in a little humble-brag while beating up chumps in a cafe. The action choreography, and her movements, on the other hand, aren’t as polished as one would expect from an out-and-out action film specialist. Sonakshi is given little range to play around with her facials, as her character remains majorly reticent and brooding in the second half.

Then there are the convenient logical flaws with the story which don’t hurt the plot much, but make it harder to invest thoroughly into the film. At the same time, the film doesn’t try to tick all the boxes of a commercial entertainer, wherein it doesn’t bother to append a mandatory love interest or deviates to a course that completely appears out of place.

Akira isn’t a film about women empowerment or a lesson in equality for female lead characters in Hindi cinema. But the fact that all of its focal story points are women: be it the girl who gets acid thrown in her face by an obnoxiously self-entitled jilted stalker, the girl who Rane exploits, the altruistic Rabiya’s earnest will or even the poorly dubbed transgendered sidekick at the asylum; the issues that these women face, and the strength which they depict and act with, makes it an important and a fairly entertaining watch.

My rating: **1/2 (2.5 out of 5)

Raman Raghav 2.0


Raman Raghav 2.0
Release date: June 24, 2016
Directed by: Anurag Kashyap
Cast: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Vicky Kaushal, Sobhita Dhulipala, Amruta Subhash, Ashok Lokhande, Mukesh Chhabra

Raman Raghav was a serial killer in the ’60s and the rest you can Google for yourself. Raman Raghav 2.0, with a disclaimer, tells us that this film is NOT about him. It’s inspired from his brutalities, and in turn lead to an inspired character who looks up to the notorious criminal.

Ramanna (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) is mostly unnamed through the film, even when he pays a visit to his sister after being away from her for a period of seven years. His sister (Amruta Subhash) isn’t particularly happy to see him; nor her little son and old husband (Ashok Lokhande) but yet he makes himself feel welcomed, if not with his harsh words, then with a car jack and a motorcycle helmet.

Little is given away about his troubled past with his sister, and his individual past. He calls himself Sindhi Dalwai, an alias that the original Raman Raghav went by in his time. He maintains a small diary where he lists down his conquests, often giving them made-up names, as he kills indiscriminately. Or when he gets a call from god, as he claims.

On the other hand, is ACP Raghavan (Vicky Kaushal) who crosses paths with Ramanna, not by chance though. Raghavan is a cop with serious issues. He cokes up at a crime scene. He has an obnoxiously ignorant view on birth control and protected sex. And he has consistent daddy issues, so much so that his father (Vipin Sharma) still gets to threaten him and talk about what a great fuck up he is, in a room filled with strangers.

In an interview, Kashyap claimed this film to be a love story. Ramanna perceives Raghavan to be like him. He feels that they are made for each other because they are both killers. One of them is licensed to kill, and the other one finds killing to be a natural instinct. Just like eating, shitting and fornicating, killing is important too. His act of getting Raghavan to like him sets off the stereotypical cat and mouse chase between the supposed protagonist and the antagonist.

Kashyap even references a little shtick from his Black Friday, in the sardined shanties of Mumbai, brimming with filth and poverty. He plays to his strengths, which are packing in uncomfortable conversations and making them entertaining. Ramanna has a child-like glow when he confesses his transgressions. Simi (Sobhita Dhulipala), Raghavan’s girlfriend, cuts him off in the middle of a, what appears like a usual act of abuse he’d partake in any other night, and attends to a phone call by taking a timeout. You wouldn’t know if you should laugh level dark comedy is his strong point.

The women appear as mere props in the path of destruction, but they both have character. Amruta Subhash playing Raman’s conflicted sister is scared of him, yet she wouldn’t stand by as a spectator while he wreaks havoc in her house. Simi shares a volatile relationship with Raghav. She knows when to tighten the leash around his neck and when to hold back. Only detail they probably missed out on was her profession. A very small, yet confusing flaw.

The performances of all actors involved are thoroughly ingrained with their parts. The camera holds tight frames, fixed on the characters’ faces. The focus, though, slips away from the face to reduce the amount of gore on screen, and substitutes it with powerful sound. Basic storytelling rule done good. You flinch, and your toes curl up. You may even clatter your teeth. Nawazuddin lends a lot to that effect with his towering portrayal of a manic voyeur and a relentlessly honest truthfulness to his reality. The Hindi film industry would do better with some more Amruta Subhash around. She’s extremely gritty and nuanced in the only extended sequence of the film that she is in.

Side note: Mukesh Chhabra was in two films in two weeks. And this performance was a hoot!

Dhulipala has a strong presence and is quite potent in her role. Vicky Kaushal is trusted with a lot of heavy lifting, and he fits in as much as he can without fracturing his back. He is asked to be asserting, authoritative and simultaneously an addict. Again, that’s a flaw I find with the writing. A grouse that I have with the execution of the murders is that there is a consistent effort to dilute the gravity of every act of barbarism with a piece of background music. It’s not on the level that American Psycho did it, where there was absolutely no worth to the loss of humans in the film. But then it’s a recurring theme, which steals some of the investment from the viewer.

Raman Raghav 2.0 is Kashyap toying with a setting that he’s most comfortable in, and just how none of his films are, even this one isn’t about a moral lesson in living your life in a certain way, or not committing forty odd murders on the streets of a city. It’s a purely sadistic slasher film with a perfectly acceptable twist at the end, and with Kashyap’s brand of humor and wit.

My rating: ***1/2 (3.5 out of 5)

Udta Punjab


Udta Punjab
Release date: June 17, 2016
Directed by: Abhishek Chaubey
Cast: Alia Bhatt, Shahid Kapoor, Diljit Dosanjh, Kareena Kapoor, Satish Kaushik, Manav Vij, Suhail Nayyar

On the Pakistani side of the Punjab-Pakistan border, a discus throw athlete is brought along to catapult a package of “brown powder” into a farm field in Punjab. On the Indian end, another athlete of her own merit chances upon this thrown contraband while she works as a farmer. The state of non-cricket playing athletes bares stark similarities on both sides of the Line of Control.

A heavily-tattooed pop star glorifies the use of substances, like his western and other global counterparts have done for decades now. He doesn’t have a damaged past that forced him into drug abuse, heck, he had a glorious past. But the life expectancy of all that early glory makes him obsessed with his own cock, figuratively and literally.

A young kid, from a presumably healthy household, starts using just because the drug is too accessible and all his friends are doing it. Another addict is turned into one by brute force and sheer fatality.

A junior police inspector questions his senior if they are also going to turn into powerless bystanders to the Mexican drug mafia like contagion of the Punjabi drug nexus, to which the latter throws open a public display of authority by faking to seize a large consignment of the popular poison, and let’s the carrier of the said consignment get away after grabbing more money and lashing out a few slaps.

These are the central characters of Abhishek Chaubey’s Udta Punjab. Kareena Kapoor’s public helping Dr. Preet Sahni is a collateral to the thoroughly set-in system. There is hardly any glorification, or a positive sentiment attached to the depiction of drug consumption here, and that should give away the intent of the makers. The film keeps bouncing between a dark comedy and grim introspections of the central characters.

The protagonists lead their separate lives, constantly a part of the narcotic environment, where the number of enablers is shockingly high. A political under current runs along the narrative of the film, which isn’t set as the central plot of the film, and it isn’t even treated so. The film doesn’t even finish with a grand exposé to unmask the bad guys disguised as ghosts at the hands of Scooby Doo, or Jackie Chan.

In one slightly contrived romantic moment, Dr Sahni says to Sub Inspector Sartaj (Diljit Dosanjh), there are two wars against drugs going on. The first one is the obvious one, and the second one is the one that people around us are constantly fighting. The urge to have that another hit of their choice of drug. She helps young kids and adults get out of the circle at her rehab center.

Udta Punjab, the film concentrates more on its characters to tell a story of a larger problem. Therefore it focuses more on their individual journeys and how they fall in and out of cocaine/heroin. Amit Trivedi’s powerful music is always mixed with story progression, thereby cutting off some of the most memorable work that he’s done in recent times. Da Da Dasse, Chitta Ve, Has Nach Le and Ikk Kudi are given some footage, whereas Ud Da Punjab and Vadeeya hardly get to be heard.

Chaubey and Sudip Sharma have woven Shiv Kumar Batalvi’s poetry masterfully with a track in the film. Shahid Kapoor as the erratic, and eccentric Tommy Singh, the Gabru MAN, is an eclectic mix of lunacy, and joy. He is the comic relief, and the emotional conditioner, with his one sequence with his uncle just before the halfway mark. The limp in his walk, the slow motion mic throw at one of his audience members, the trembling of his fingers with a gun in his hand, Kapoor owns his character completely.

While Kapoor is supported by Satish Kaushik and Suhail Nayyar in his performance, Diljit shows an earnest spirit with his Sartaj. Even he is supported by a pleasantly vanilla real world snow-white princess like Kareena Kapoor and Manav Vij as the vindictive senior police officer. Alia Bhatt on the other hand, has a deglamorized appearance as compared to the rest of the cast, and perhaps the most complex part of them all. Entrusted with the most heartbreaking character arc, and a particularly very disturbing sequence, Alia pulls off the Bihari accent with a twang and grounds Tommy’s hedonistic ego in the only scene that they share.

Sure, there are kinks with the slightly overlong political angle, but Udta Punjab is so relentless that there are moments where you would want to laugh like a hyena, and yet can’t get yourself to do it because the said moment is very painful at the same time. To inspire humor and sadness, and empathy in the same breath is the greatest achievement of this film.

Screw the censor board.

My rating: ***1/2 (3 & 1/2 out of 5)

Bombay Velvet


Bombay Velvet
Release date: May 15, 2015
Directed by: Anurag Kashyap
Cast: Ranbir Kapoor, Anushka Sharma, Satyadeep Misra, Manish Chaudhari, Karan Johar, Siddhartha Basu, Kay Kay Menon, Vivaan Shah

In an Anurag Kashyap film, you’re kept at an arm’s length from the characters’ psyche and the choice of their actions. When Faizal Khan finishes off Ramadhir Singh in Gangs of Wasseypur (2012), the emotions evoked are somewhat mixed. Faizal finally gets his revenge, on the other hand, the end of Ramadhir feels saddening. Something similar happens when Definite double crosses Faizal after that. The grief is there, yet it’s hollow.

Bombay Velvet takes the same route to build up its protagonists. There are pointers to different parts of Bombay, the city, but not a single direct “15 years later” flashing on the screen when the mini versions of Balraj and Rosie grow up in a few flashes. Perhaps, the city is supposed to take prominence over the people that it’s made up of. But cities don’t breathe, laugh, cry or love, lust and long; the people do.

The spotlight keeps shifting and shuffling between the city and its highly aspirational inhabitants. Balraj (Ranbir Kapoor) wants to be a “bigshot”, and has a Tyler Durden-esque underground fighter streak to him. Rosie (Anushka Sharma) covets a lot of things and is confused about the right ways of acquiring the said things. The city dreams of becoming India’s first metropolis. The city isn’t even complete, it still dreams of joining the seven islands.

The city is run by Mayor Romi Patel (Siddhartha Basu) and his cronies. Kaizad Khambatta (Karan Johar) wants to be on the list of cronies, and a big share in the pie, that is Bombay’s ‘development’. Jimmy Mistry (Manish Chaudhari) is Khambatta’s ideologically opposed rival, who runs vicious attacks on the self-proclaimed capitalist in his newspaper. Screen time is distributed almost evenly between all four quarters, they’re built well. Only in a very dull and serious tone. Unlike how Kashyap films work.

The humor is sucked out of the film to make space for cliched contrivances, impersonal romantic sequences and beautifully shot Hindi-jazz numbers. The first half sets up all its characters for major things to come, only they can be predicted a good ten minutes before they happen, every time, except for the dooziest con-job involving a bomb blast.

Reliable actors are cast, thus ensuring conviction in the characters they enact. Satyadeep Misra as Balraj’s sidekick Chimman is restrained and calm. Ranbir Kapoor wears his hair like Terry Malloy in On The Waterfront, bears his ugly bruises as a champ, and makes good for a mean hack. Anushka Sharma plays the victimized artiste passionately, a stark contrast of Raveena Tandon’s Dahlia. Rosie is not a diva, she just plays one. Dahlia is a completely self-assured performer.

If Karan Johar is going to pursue the acting gig further, I’m not sure if he can find a better character to play than Kaizad Khambatta. His character is perfectly tailor-made for him, he fits the suave, sophisticated, sinister shades, as well as his impeccably stylish suits do. There are real-life parallels referred to, only in subtle bits and parts. Manish Chaudhari tries hard to be the manic paper editor, and ends up trying a tad too hard.

There are numerous references made/homages paid to the gangster films of Hollywood. Violence from Goodfellas, tommy-gun wielding from Scarface and then there’s Sonal Sawant’s brilliant production design that recreates Bombay in the 60s. Rajeev Ravi’s camera picks up every meticulous detail that Sawant gets in the frame. Amit Trivedi enthuses yet another stellar OST and riveting background score that outmatches the action on screen.

The scale and stage of the film is so large, you wonder if it should hang in the balance by a flimsy screenplay, just how the future of the city in the film is going to be determined by a flimsy negative of a photo film. Not the best obtained output from all its entered resources, yet not completely squandered either.

My rating: **1/2 (2.5 out of 5)



Release date: December 26, 2014
Directed by: Anurag Kashyap
Cast:Tejaswini Kolhapure, Ronit Roy, Rahul Bhatt, Surveen Chawla, Vineet Kumar, Girish Kulkarni, Siddhanth Kapoor, Abir Goswami, Madhavi Singh, Anshika Shrivastava

What kind of a father leaves his kid behind on the only day he gets to see her? What kind of a mother feeds her kid milk laced with sleeping pills? What kind of a person marries someone to just get even for an old fight? This is the dubious setting in which Anurag Kashyap sets his reality-driven fictional universe. The charm and thrill of the unexpected at every step distracts you, and the case of a missing girl in the film, from looking at the obvious.

Kali (Anshika Shrivastava) is the ‘Gone Girl’ and her “failed hero” actor/father Rahul (Rahul Bhat) and his casting director friend Chaitanya (Vineet Kumar) start searching for her. In their attempt to file a police complaint, they end up talking about why aspiring actors in Mumbai change their surnames, why can’t a casting director cast his friend in a film and Inspector Jadhav (Girish Kulkarni) takes them only seriously when he discovers Kali’s relation to a senior officer.

The senior officer is Shoumik Bose (Ronit Roy) who is also a monster dad and a hardboiled cop turns the complaint around and starts suspecting the original complainants. Shoumik is also a control freak, yet vulnerable; as he hears his wife’s phone conversations on the loudspeaker mode and yet monitors her every movement. Shalini (Tejaswini Kolhapure) is the repressed wife who’s the link between Shoumik and Rahul.

In an engaging character study and the slow divulging of small plot points that replay in hazy flashbacks, Ugly paints every character with a motive for crime. With an amateur robbery heist, it shows you the desperation of the characters. Logically, the heist could have been stopped by the immediate interference of the snooping police force, but that’s the only kink.

Rahul Bhat as the cash-strapped, abusive husband and the troubled father is splendid; while Kolhapure as the incurably hapless betrayed wife is sickeningly empathetic. Ronit Roy strikes fear with his verbally limited vocabulary and more than able physical repertoire. He’s shadier than the News of the World and as unrepentant as a proven psychopath. Vineet Kumar and Surveen Chawla as the friends with their own murky interests only help to further tighten the mystery. Not to forget, Girish Kulkarni is a complete showstealer in every scene he appears in.

Ugly also gains a lot from the slick background score by Brian McOmber. It provides bass to the treble of the stylishly-shot visuals, no matter how disturbing they may appear to the fainthearted viewer. The director is in complete control towards the end of the film and uses DevD-ish fadeouts to let the viewers fill in the blanks deliberately left open in the narrative.

There are no angels with halos in this dark world, only co-conspirators with headphones, voice modulators and laptops. Kashyap is asking you to trust no one, yet don’t convolute the obvious.

My rating: **** (4 out of 5)



Release date: August 22, 2014
Directed by: Deepti Kakkar and Fahad Mustafa
Cast: Loha Singh, Ritu Maheshwari and their families, along with many more families from Kanpur.

The irregular supply of electricity through major parts of India, as we know it, is an often tucked under the carpet harsh reality that we choose to turn a blind eye to. We as Indians, even participate in the Ice Bucket Challenge, which has its concerns firmly rooted in ‘the West’ , but no electricity? It’s too common, yo!

Katiyabaaz/Powerless is half-documentary-half-enactment of Loha Singh’s constant tussle with the transformers and phase connections of Kanpur Electricity Board, which is just a metaphor for the entire city’s struggle for power. Ritu Maheshwari is the head of affairs on the other end (KESCO) and she’s out on her own middle path of bringing about a change in the proverbially inefficient system.

Owing to the city’s power deficit, the citizens start acquiring illegal connections with the much needed assistance of katiyas–who make cuts on live wires and provide for power, only it’s illegal. Maheshwari orders for fines on these cuts and thus starts a crackdown on katiyas. Her meetings with her subordinates where she iterates her stand time and again, are shown right from the conference halls. Loha’s nails are filled with dirt, yet they aren’t half as disturbing as the blemishes, burns and abrasions on his fingers show marks of his battles with the flying sparks of electric current.

There’s also a third party involved in the conflict of the system and the revolting masses, it’s that of a local representative of the people, Irfan Solanki. His election campaign and his upfront stance in favor of his people adds an interesting dimension. All three parties are depicted with a sense of balance and there ain’t no preaching done by the mama (directors)

Figures about the deteriorating condition of Kanpur’s infrastructure and its diminishing reputation in terms of its commercial output never run down the city as a whole. On the other hand, the depiction of scary mobs, and incessantly disgruntled locales with no silver lining whatsoever don’t do any favors to the city either. The line between what’s real and what’s not is blurred at moments, perhaps to extract humor and sympathy in a manner which just doesn’t harbor on continuously asking questions to the protagonists, how other documentaries do.

Your concern for Loha’s daredevilry is reflected in a scene where Loha has a bittersweet conversation with his mother. It’s unpredictably contrived, yet it’s absorbing. One piece of trivia tells you that Kanpur is one of world’s top ten dirtiest cities, even then, the photography is vivid and extremely pleasing. Majorly shot on real locations, Maria Trieb lends a very intimate vibe to the film.

Katiyabaaz is majorly informative, somehow it tells you a conventional story as well. Only with no real outright antagonists.

My rating: ***1/2 (3.5 out of 5)

The World Before Her

theworldbeforeher-poster.jpg large
The World Before Her
Release date: June 6, 2014 (India)
Directed by: Nisha Pahuja
Cast: Prachi Trivedi, Ruhi Singh, Pooja Chopra, Ankita Shorey, Marc Robinson

In two juxtaposing small towns of Jaipur and Aurangabad, two contradicting mindsets reside. Both of them are against the grain of the usual ones in their respective localities. The first is that of Durga Vahini‘s resident member, Prachi Trivedi’s anti-marriage, pro Hindutva, a  24 year old woman from Aurangabad. The other is of a beauty pageant aspirant from Jaipur, 19 year old Ruhi Singh. The two ladies, aren’t the only central interviewees in this documentary though.

Raised by a somewhat encouraging yet strong-willed set of parents, both these ladies grow up to have their own dreams to fulfill in their own worlds. Their worlds may be different, but they aren’t mutually exclusive from each other. And the ironic connection at each step is what forms for entertaining dark humor and thought-provoking sensitive questions. Prachi doesn’t like ‘weak’ girls, so much that she would bash their heads if she could. She also admits that the authority that she has makes her feel empowered and she likes people to fear her. The same taskmistress finds a mellow and softer attitude at her patriarchal house. You can see her become the proverbial ‘daddy’s little girl’ with the look in her eyes when her priest father talks about her future.

Ruhi’s parents believe that their daughter will not be able to live up to the lifestyle that she wants to in Jaipur. They send her to Mumbai to participate in the Miss India contest. Soon parallels keep emerging between the painful, yet pretty grilling practice sessions of the vanity fare and the tough love mixed with some healthy dose of brainwashing at the severely right wing Vishwa Hindu Parishad‘s Durga Vahini camp. Along the narrative, more young women are introduced. At the camp in Aurangabad, there is Chinmayee, a fourteen year old girl with a sweet voice and a naive mind with her own small story, then there’s Ankita Shorey at the pageant with her own rebellious tale.

Nisha Pahuja keeps filling in the blanks with shocking and amazing points of dichotomy between the two systems and keeps exploring the apparent hardened outward manifestation of the ladies under the gaze of the camera. There are vulnerable moments of each of these women, and a conscious attempt to put up a stoic front. These are real people, and I am sure you wouldn’t want your insecurities to paint you in a bad light. Technically, the transitions are substantial and the barely there background score strings together the entire screenplay through its various back and forths. Pahuja doesn’t stop with her questions and her insights never get vague or bring a sense of commonality.

The World Before Her doesn’t preach, it rather tries providing facts. It shows the disparities between the two worlds, and the similarities. It doesn’t wield an outright black over the right wing ideology and not a pure white over the ‘westernized’ concepts of beauty. Neither of them is holier than the other, and yet it’s about the women in these systems and what they find their life’s purpose in. The questions stay consistently foraying, but the answers fill the bones with enormous amounts of flesh.

My rating: No rating. (Mandatory viewing)

My Experiments with Trivedi

(Disclaimer: I have not performed any experiments with Amit Trivedi literally. Yet. Also this is an article for my college magazine so expect it to be gentle.)

Back when I had just crossed the humongous hurdle of tenth standard board exams, what then seemed like the end of a known world, and marked the advent of a new, rebellious universe where I could do whatever pleased me, I was into buying pirated MP3 CDs. The internet wasn’t as big and easy, however charming and enticing. On one of those CDs, with AR Rahman on it, with the score of Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na, I chanced upon a certain album called ‘Aamir’. Now kids, piracy isn’t a good thing and I strongly disapprove of it, but greatness has to be experienced some way or the other.  I did not know of the composer or any of the new-sounding voices on the album except that of Shilpa Rao’s in the Ek Lau number.

Rahman’s album sounded incredibly fresh too, it was just too popular, given the amount of promotion it received on TV. The exclusivity of Aamir to just me in my immediate circle made me cherish it more. Also the film looked intriguing in its promos, the OST just added to the feel. Ha Raham, Chakkar Ghumyo, and Haara are constantly repeated in the umpteen ‘youth centric’ TV shows as a background number. I was constantly moving into the “Yeah, rock music is completely superior to anything” mode, but my senses firmly in touch with Hindi sounds just to be aware of the scene. Turn the pages of the calendar to December 2008 and what did we get here? Dev (emphasizing cussword) D!

Why was Dev D such a big deal to me at that time? Because: a) Anurag Kashyap was by then the ostracized prodigy who was trying to be as audacious as he could he be within the boundaries of Indian censorship. That stimulated all my senses. Still does. I try to find my suppressed voice being resonated with the punch of a fifty World Trade Center climbing Godzilla sized monsters. That reference is kinda dated after 9/11, but it’s almost biblical for me. b) The first song-promo that aired on TV had Emotional Atyaachaar in it. It was fun, wacky, and extremely new. I even remember the first time I saw it; it was a wintery dawn of December. The entire soundtrack of Dev D was so refreshingly innovative, just like that of Aamir’s. c) If you listen closely, in sequence of the tracks as they are featured in the film, all 18 of them, they tell stories. Stories that drench you inside the mind of the modern Devdas. d) THE COMPOSER WAS AMIT TRIVEDI!

Honestly, I can go beyond infinity while listing the reasons why I loved all eighteen of Dev D’s compositions. The Shilpa Rao poetically eerie numbers, then dopey ones sung by Trivedi himself, melancholic songs with a neo-postmodern arrangement. Of course, back then I wasn’t reviewing films like I do now ( is where I write. Hey, a man’s got to sell what he’s making! Right!?) But I knew this; there was a difference between Rahman and Trivedi. I couldn’t put it into words then.

Dev D did win a lot of technical awards that year at the galas; Amit Trivedi found recognition with the Best Background Score ‘Black Lady’ and the RD Burman Award for New Musical Talent. But the cherry on top was the National Award for Best Music Direction. It feels strange when I type these achievements of a person who doesn’t even know of a certain lad (me) acknowledging his greatness for his college magazine. A lot of you connect with it when your favorite football team clinches the league honors after a gap of enter-the-number-of-years-here, or obsessing over the apparent coolness of that particular movie star and waiting for him to get his due. Don’t deny it, even you smug condescending cool ones. We all know you are pulling for that certain someone without any hopes of getting something in return.

Trivedi had now, as they say in the MTV Roadies dialect, “proved himself”. Earned his dues. Now it was time for mainstream ascendancy, and the next year he nailed all the accolades with just one composition, ‘Ik Taara’, in a packed Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy album. With his single song, he did more than the famous triplet could do with an entire compilation of 5 tracks. I was understanding the difference between Rahman and Trivedi but I didn’t bother much about it, because it was the latter churning out excellent melodies one after the other.

With Udaan, he delivered simplistically beautiful symphonies, and embellished varying tastes with Aisha. In India, one of the elementary forms for a family-man to know of the ‘latest hit songs’ is through the music played at wedding parties or by the bandwallahs. And now, Amit Trivedi was breaking into that playlist as well. With the original Emotional Atyachaar, Gal Mithi Mithi Bol from Aisha, then Aa Rela Hai Apun from Chillar Party he was just about to break the glass ceiling of being a ‘classy’ music director to a ‘massy’ composer. He crossed into the Yashraj and Dharma camps by landing up with Ishaqzaade and Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu respectively.

In late 2012, he didn’t stop evolving. His eccentric score for Aiyyaa, surprisingly subdued Punjabi beats in Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana and barely there songs yet completely skeletal to English Vinglish went on to diversify his repertoire. He brought dubstep and psychedelic flavors and yet didn’t overhaul the tnire scene forcibly. More than a year into reviewing films by this point, around 2013, I started to condense my feelings about the difference between Rahman and Trivedi into words. Only those words weren’t in ink, yet.

He’s the guy who gave you that rock-solid sound to Kai Po Che! with merely three songs. It’s the same person who fleshed out 18 in Dev D. Forward to Ghanchakkar and Lootera last year, the former was a film about a combination of madcaps and the latter was an ageless period love-drama. The films separated by one week in their release, united by their music composer. Ghanchakkar had Altaf Raja and Lootera brought back beauteous and soulful, soothing melodies. His most recent endeavor, Queen, was as good as he’s ever been. The compositions went hand in hand with the protagonist’s crests and troughs and blared at her jubilation.

Now, in 2014, I know the difference between Rahman and Trivedi. Rahman, a master in his own right, can make his score a tad overpowering for a film at times. He can prove to be bigger than a film itself. Trivedi, on the other hand has always seamlessly merged into the narratives and layers of the films that he’s composed for. This piece was just meant for me guiltlessly praising Amit Trivedi and my bond with his entire musical journey. I hope it can merge well with his no-frills music as seamlessly.

The Lunchbox

The Lunchbox
Release date: September 20, 2013
Directed by: Ritesh Batra
Cast: Nimrat Kaur, Irrfan Khan, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Bharati Achrekar, Denzil Smith, Nakul Vaid, Lillete Dubey, Yashvi Puneet Nagar

Delectably assorted tiers of steel boxes, make their way from the homely kitchens to the hustling offices and other workplaces, with the dabbawalas playing the role of the messenger–a regular urban activity, is picked up by Ritesh Batra and he gives vivid roles to all the three parties involved. Where the dabbawala is the inadvertent cupid (in denial) between an unlikely couple.

Ila (Nimrat Kaur) is a modern housewife, in need of validation from her husband Rajiv (Nakul Vaid) She gets the wanted and unwanted advice from the Deshpande Aunty (Bharati Achrekar’s voice) be it cooking or listening to endless cassettes from the 80s and 90s, they do it all together. In a bid to win Rajiv all over again, Ila cooks the most scrumptious meal she has ever cooked yet.

On the other end of the spectrum, rather the receiving end, is Fernandes (Irrfan Khan) a bank employee working for the claims department for the past 35 years, and is about to retire in a month. He’s a widower, who smokes and watches TV while he’s at home in the evening. He doesn’t dole out free smiles either. Two common emotions between these disconnected characters is the longing for a loved one, in the absence or even the presence of that person.

The tiffin packed with the spices and an effervescent letter becomes the ritual and what they bode on are the general changes in Bombay, their personal habits, their fancies. All of it, without seeing each other through the entire film. The actors deliver perfect emotions that resemble intimate moments, even in isolation. Siddiqui plays the enigmatic yet annoying newbie at the bank, Aslam. He keeps pushing Fernandes to the limit only to catch him off guard enjoying his tiffin.

However, as perfect this film appears, I was baffled at the subsided treatment given to the fringe characters, like the co-employees at the bank, thus adding to inconsistencies with Fernandes’s character (with respect to what Aslam says he’s heard from the other guys at the bank). There’s a certain feeling of holding back, the cards seem just a bit too close to the chest. Perhaps more of these flaws get masked by Khan’s crowning realistic acting, Kaur’s timed insecure expression and the sheer delight of receiving yet another letter. If there’s a film about Bombay’s current face and its constant battle with overcoming nostalgia, it cannot be better than The Lunchbox.

Ritesh Batra’s transitions are simplistically captivating. He takes the usual and turns it into fitting devices for the screenplay to forward. Shot on real locations with camerawork that resembles the same innocuous stolen glances which the characters share with the letters exchanged through the lunchbox, Michael Simmonds is impish as he delves into the character’s camaraderie with the same fringe characters, thus making them inclusive again.

I don’t know about Oscar selections or National Awards, but The Lunchbox is as close as a film can get to your heart, even if no one uses a mobile phone in the entire film. It’s just food, Bombay and the memories here.

My rating: **** (4 out of 5)


Release date: July 12, 2013
Directed by: Shlok Sharma, Siddharth Gupt, Anirban Roy, Rohit Pandey, Neeraj Ghaywan
Cast: Huma Qureshi, Satya Anand, Swheta Tripathi, Aditya Kumar,  Richa Chaddha, Arjun Shrivastav, Murari Kumar, Preeti Singh, Shankar Debnath, Kanchan Mullick, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Aditi Khanna, Vineet Singh and Ratnabali Bhattacharjee, Guneet Monga

As the release date shows, Shorts–a compilation of five short films, released 6 days back and I have only managed to catch it today. My viewpoints are a clear reflection of the angst and despair that I simply can’t keep to myself even though this film is out of screens in just a few hours.

A joint venture by the ever-expanding AKFPL and Tumbhi along with PVR Directors Rare, Shorts is an anthology of five different stories. Aimed at constructing a market for new filmmakers to market their skills, Shorts proves to be just that, a showreel of psychedelic lighting, voyeuristic camera angles, some acting here and there and over-dependence on nothing but background score.

The storylines present (or absent in a few) in the individual features have no connective theme and that’s not the part that’s frustrating, it’s actually usual for such a production to pack in different flavors, giving the audiences a chance to enjoy varied tastes and characters. But Shorts is plainly frustrating.

Shlok Sharma’s Sujata tries to build the entire narrative in flashbacks and constant cut-ins to the current setting. It deals with a complex theme of sexual abuse, but yet shies away from being naked in its sharpness. The said faults aren’t as distracting as the logical inconsistencies here.

Siddharth Gupt’s Epilogue is supposedly abstract and mysterious, but as the relationship drama starts to develop, it becomes unbearably repetitive and non-contextual. Richa Chadda’s sensuality isn’t enough to captivate you with a third symbolic character meandering with a shovel. The players are potentially most fascinating, but the said potential kills itself by self-aggrandizing.

Audacity directed by Anirban Roy tells a teenage-girl rebelling against her self-glorifying chauvinist father. Humor is an underlying theme in this feature as the girl defies the norms in her own way by capitalizing on the same beliefs of middle class Calcutta which restrict them in the first place. Again, the cultural background and a reasoning behind the characters’ activities aren’t established here as well.

Rohit Pandey’s Mehfuz also aims at being a subtle, minimal dialogue presentation like Epilogue and doesn’t quite fail as much. A blue and yellow tint is maintained throughout without making an ounce of an effort to actually ponder over its hokey appearance and contriving vibes. Mehfuz also carries on for the same duration that feels like a hundred eons. Only the choice of the protagonist’s profession is appealing.

The final film in this tiring experience is Neeraj Ghaywan’s Shor. The characters are boorish and real, the story isn’t pretentiously groundbreaking, yet it has a flow unlike most of the other parts. The only feature to have an extended dialogue and is explicitly reflective in its approach, turns out to be a good ending to the unseemly collaboration.

The incumbent ambition of the makers to popularize the concept of such initiatives shoots itself in the foot as the selection that they have preferred to come out with is woefully hit-and-miss (majorly miss) and amateurish. The ordinary uninformed masses won’t take the same number of risks in making their decisions though.

My rating: ** (2 out of 5)

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